Study Guide

Deborah Read in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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Deborah Read

We learn almost nothing about Franklin's wife, Deborah, and most of what we know comes peripherally. For example, she sees him on Franklin first day in Philadelphia, walking down the street holding bread, and isn't that put off. She must become interested in him when he's living in her father's house as a boarder, but they only do preliminary courting before Franklin goes to England, where he seems to forget her. While he's gone, Deborah gets involved with – and technically marries – another man. So, we don't know if Deborah wasn't all that interested in Franklin, if her family pushed her to marry someone else because they thought he wasn't coming back, or what. Deborah kind of has a rough deal of it, though, because her first husband runs off and she never hears from him again. This doesn't stop her from perking up when Franklin returns and they decide to get married.

Deborah's a good wife and a mother of three, and that's about all we hear about her. Franklin tells us she's "dispos'd to Industry and Frugality" (2.37) and is happy to help him out in their business. She's either just as passionate as he is about living cheaply and economically, or does a great job of faking it. We know she's proud of her husband because she saves up money for him to have a porcelain bowl and silver spoon, which will show the Franklins are just as good as all their neighbors.

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